Instead of the usual college party in the beaches of Mexico, seven students from Michigan State University (MSU) used their spring break to help non-profits across the country. Starting on March 1, their 1,000-mile journey, called MSU Out of the Box, included four cities: Indianapolis, Nashville, Dallas, and Austin. The initial plan was to spend 24 hours in each city, and use that time to provide creative services, free of charge, to one non-profit per stop. Although the ice storms in Nashville delayed their arrival in Dallas, they made it to Austin right in time for SXSW Interactive.
The group spent Thursday with their chosen non-profit in Austin, the Mobile Art Program, which provides art activities for low-income nursing, Alzheimer respite programs and adult day programs. The Out of the Box students worked with the organization, formed in 2007, to create a logo and design a website for them, including one year's worth of website service paid for by Squarespace.
"Their experience is very beneficial for us," said Theresa Zelazny, Founder of the Mobile Art Program.
Apart from providing free creative services, the students took part in an art event at the Austin Groups for the Elderly on Thursday, where the Mobile Art Program provided seniors with canvases and helped them re-create famous paintings. The event, as well as the entire trip, has been filmed by a couple of the students on board, with a plan to eventually create a documentary showing how creativity connects.
"Our goal is to help non-profits who don't have the services they need to succeed," said journalism student Andrea Raby, part of the Out of the Box team. "We want to show that college students can give back."
Though they experienced some bumps in the road - literally - with the weather, they plan to have this trip become an annual, reoccurring event for MSU.
"People didn't think we could do it at first," said Out of the Box member Reid Masimore, majoring in advertisement. "But we were able to raise enough money and meet our goals."
The group plans to spend Friday attending free Interactive events and enjoying the sunny Austin weather.
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